Styling of fourth generation Renault Clio is strong and refreshingly different

Styling of fourth generation Renault Clio is strong and refreshingly different

Renault’s history in Australia has been one of seemingly endless comebacks, followed by the French company’s slow fading away. Not completely away, but far enough out of the scene to become a bit player rather than a mainstream one.

The latest Renault revival downunder began three years ago with the appointment of new managing director Justin Hocevar, a man well known in the global automotive industry for his flair in marketing, particularly in individualisation of cars to appeal to those who want to stand out from the crowd.

Renault Clio is now in its fourth generation, the first one never did officially come to Australia, the second one did reasonably well for a while and the third generation was imported only in very limited numbers. That’s finally about to change and the complete range of Renault Clios has just hit our local market. With, no surprises here, a big focus on choice of colours, trims, accessories and dress up items.

The all-new Renault Clio provides the perfect palette for personalisation. Styled by Laurens van den Acker the new Clio doesn’t follow the current mainstream shape that’s being used by so many others at present. Rather, the Renault Clio has a slim grille that expands in its centre section to frame the Renault diamond-shaped emblem. The headlights are an evolution of the shape used in previous generation Clios.

The doors are deeply sculpted in their lower areas and the side profile has the look of a three-door thanks to concealed handles on the rear doors. The rear end flares in slightly at the side to give a muscular look.

Inside, there’s plenty of French flair with a strong design of the centre screen area separating it from the instrument panel. Personalisation of the trim is simple thanks to the different areas crying out for contrasting colours.

The all-new Renault Clio uses two entertainment systems, tagged as Media Nav, and R-Link, depending on the model and options chosen. Both use an 18-cm touchscreen tablet-style display and provide satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and music streaming. There are USB and 3.5mm connectors.

A clever feature is a new design of speakers in the front doors, called Bass Reflex technology, by Renault that provide far better sounding bass than you would expect from their diminutive dimensions.

Two turbocharged petrol engines are offered, one a three-cylinder 900 cc unit producing up to 66 kilowatts of power and 135 Nm of torque, the latter spread over a wide band or revs. The other is a four-cylinder (88 kW, 190 Nm) that’s an expanded version of the three-cylinder. It has a capacity of 1200 cc (1.2 litres).

The three-cylinder engine comes only with a five-speed manual gearbox, the four sits beside a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual.

As one of the leaders in safety – Renault was the first company ever to score a five-star crash-test rating – the all-new Renault Clio has active safety equipment such as ESC, ASR, and Brake Assist. The body, despite a weight reduction of 100 kg compared with the outgoing model, is exceptionally well designed for strength and rigidity. In European NCAP crash testing Clio received the highest scores in its segment for three of the four criteria and easily scored five stars.

New Renault Clio has supple suspension that provides good comfort and nimble handling. It’s not a sports hatch – the Clio RenaultSport coming in a few months will fill that spot – but will meet the needs of the keen driver looking for a moderately priced daily driver. Road noise was well damped, even on notorious coarse-chip surfaces so Clio will work well on country excursions.

There was wind noise from the driver’s door on one of the three cars we tested, but the others were fine. Right-hand drive Renault Clios are built in Turkey and other than this fault we found no problems.

The smaller engine struggled a bit at times on steep hills but was otherwise responsive and willing. Its five-speed manual was easy to use and the ratios work nicely in most conditions. The bigger powerplant was a better bet, with its added ratio making for an even better spread. Torque output is excellent in both engines.

Gen-four Renault Clio is available in three specification levels; Authentic (starting at $16,790 plus on-road costs), Expression and Dynamique. To these can be added the aforementioned customisation packages. Watch your budget though, because car companies are known to seriously trim prices on the standard vehicles and then recover their profits by selling up on accessories. Having said that, Renault prices aren’t as inflated as we see on some competitors.

Who will buy the new Renault Clio? Those wanting more style than is provided by the likes of VW Polo or Mazda2; people who love customising cars like the Mini (more expensive) or Fiat 500 (smaller but cheaper); or simply those who want something out of the ordinary should consider adding it to their short list.

The complete Renault Clio range is:
Clio Authentique TCe 90 0.9-litre petrol five-door hatch: $16,790 (manual)
Clio Expression TCe 90 0.9-litre petrol five-door hatch: $17,790 (manual)
Clio Expression TCe 120 1.2-litre petrol five-door hatch: $19,790 (automatic)
Clio Dynamique TCe 120 1.2-litre petrol five-door hatch: $23,290(automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Renault dealer for drive-away prices.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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